Sunday, November 26, 2006

New Finished Work!

These are some of the newly finished pieces I had for sale at the Guy Brewster Hughes Gallery in Lake Placid on Friday. They are made from my handmade glass beads and some of the yummy gemstone beads I've been hoarding for the last, oh, ten years or so...! These will all be for sale on very, very soon, but for now, here's a little sneak peek...

This piece, tentatively called "Surf 'n' Turf", is made from six of my handmade beads and a strand of genuine Peruvian opal rondelles. The beads were made with a base of ivory glass over which I rolled some silver foil, and then layered some aqua and coral glass. The whole piece is very earthy and organic but very artsy at the same time. This is going to be a hard one to part with, but I want it to find a good home.

This is a piece made with another set of favorite beads called Tiger Beads. I think these were some of the very first beads I made with my kiln - because they were so big and chunky, they never survived the cooling process in the vermiculite. I was particularly upset by the loss of a great, big sculptured focal I made in this style. But now I've got the kiln, I don't lose any to heat cracks. Anyway, about the necklace - to accent the Tyger Beads, I've strung them with some very dark rutilated quartz. There are so many inclusions in these beads, they almost look black until you take a closer look at them. I alternated them with some thick onyx washers and silver spacers. The beads themselves are made from ivory, coral and intense black glass that has been stretched and wound and stretched and wound to give me those lovely ink-spot patterns, and then wound with a thick layer of clear to magnify the patterns underneath. Very cool with a t-shirt and jeans!

Okay, another piece that I love. I made these beads by forming a thick cylinder with transparent colored glass, and then wound clear glass around the ends but didn't melt it in. (Hmmm, that gives me an idea - what would have happened if I HAD melted it in?) Anyway, they were just lolling about on my work table for the longest time, until I saw these fun, funky faceted Czech glass beads from the Czechs in the Mail bead club, and then I knew I had a design! Eureka! I love this piece because it's colorful, funky and refined all at the same time. I tried the piece on with a brightly colored t-shirt, and I just loved it.

This piece is made from two of my favorite things - handmade glass beads and vintage German glass beads! Woo-hoo! I swear, to anyone who is looking at this piece, the funky cubes in shades of yellow and green and coral really are glass. They've been etched from here to the moon and back, but they really are glass. When I had displayed this at a shop years ago, more than one customer came in, believing themselves to be an "authority" on polymer clay, and telling me, the one who made the beads, in no uncertain terms that those were most certainly polymer clay and not glass. Well, surprise, folks, they really are glass. And I've got a chipped one somewhere in my bead box to prove it! Hehehe... I don't know where this one came from, but I had a ball making the square boxy-shaped beads. (I think this was the first set I made while testing out various work chairs in my studio.)

And speaking of the moon... I got an idea to start a series of hollow glass beads named after the planets. This is the first one, called "Jupiter". It is made from that yummy transluscent yellow glass I got as a promotion from Frantz Art Glass one summer when I was stocking up, and at first, I thought, this is the ugliest color of glass rod I have ever seen. What the hell am I going to DO with it?! But, sure enough, one day last spring, when I was torching at Mary Jane's house, I decided to make my warm up beads with a rod of it, and lo and behold, "Jupiter" was born! It is a hollow bead with coral tips, and wound with a thin stripe of opaque brown. It, too, slept on my work table until last weekend, I was lying in bed one morning trying to wake up when the idea hit me. (There's not much that can get me out of bed before 6:00 a.m., but a good design idea will do it every time!) The wireworking part was a little trickier, trying to get the two large silver beads to balance on the eyepin that holds the lampwork bead, but I think I finally got it. When worn, it hangs very nicely and complements almost any outfit. Next up: Pluto, created after I heard that a panel of international scientists have stripped Pluto of it's title of planet!

Whew, I think that's it for now. Did lots and lots and lots of photographing and photoshopping today. I need to take a vacation so I can get some work done! Peace, everyone!

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Some days, I love the freelance thing, it makes me feel like I'm my own boss (even if I am working for someone else), and I love the flexibility, and I love being able to work at home in the basement, listening to NPR and hanging with the dog. But some weeks, when I'm trying to line up work and get contracts and committments, I want to tear my hair out and scream. That's what's been going on the last few weeks - lots of hair-tearing and screaming.

Well, I don't have any new photos to post yet, but I should have a few fairly soon.

Last Sunday, I went up to the Hannukah Bazaar at temple. I was really excited to be back there for my third year in a row, and it was my best year ever for the event. I really like seeing everybody from temple and meeting new people, and Lynn brought Isaac and I sort of baby sat while she took Caroline to religious school and then over to Nutcracker rehearsal. And yesterday, I did my first-ever show at the Guy Brewster Hughes Gallery on Main Street in the Lake Placid Public Library. Louise, the gallery manager, had warned me that some days when they hold these events, no one has any sales at all. I assured her it was all in the marketing of the event. If you don't let people know you're having the event, you won't have any sales! Well, nothing much happened in the morning, until about noon. I started to get hungry, so I told Louise and her daughter Mary Anne that I was going to walk down to Soulshine Bagel and get some lunch. The day after Thanksgiving, Main Street was packed, and I stood in line for a long time. A really long time. Until I saw Mary Anne appear at the door in a total panic, and she said, "Jen, you've got to come back now, there's someone who wants to buy your jewelry!" So, I went running back up the street to the library, thinking, this was probably only a $35 sale or something, but I wanted to make sure I didn't lose it. So, I get in there, look over at the table full of the ready-to-wear line, and see that lots of it is GONE! Then this woman comes over and plunks down 4 necklaces, one of which was a $185 piece made with antique Ethiopian Tribal Silver! She bought nearly $400 worth of my jewelry like it was NOTHING! Which leads to my latest thoughts about art and life and jewelry and pricing...

I've said this before on other forums, and I'll say it again. Craft artists or fine artists should not be targeting the same market that shops at Wal-Mart. The thing that irritates me the most is seeing artists who make beautiful work and underprice it because they are afraid to charge for their time. Time is everything. Time is money. It has taken me YEARS to perfect my technique and develop my style, and I'll be damned if I'm just gonna give it away. I wish other artists felt that way as well, because when they are afraid to charge for their time, they are doing those of use who do feel our time is valuable immeasurable harm. Firstly, they are giving consumers the idea that what we do is not valuable. My father has the same problem - when someone else out there can set up your computer for less than he charges, people get a diminished sense of value. Secondly, they are selling themselves short as well, while at the same time making it harder for artists like me who are trying to make a decent, honest living from our art to make a decent, honest living. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone asked me, "But why is it so much?" I usually answer quite bluntly that while many artists do not charge for their time, I do, because my time is valuable to me. The bottom line, lesson learned from my customer yesterday who purchased all that great jewelry without blinking: if they complain about your prices, they aren't your market. And if your market is the luxury market, great! Welcome aboard! Because sometimes I forget, living up here in an area where a "good" salary is minimum wage, that there are whole cities out there, full of people who still drive SUVs despite the price of gas and who do have surplus cash to spend on goods and services like mine.

There. I'll get off my soap box now. But I would love to hear from anyone who has encountered anything similar or even anyone who disagrees with me. This is just one of my pet peeves, and lately, it's coming to the fore. It just seems that more and more people are searching for "bargains" - take the crazy people who lined up at 3:00 a.m. yesterday outside of department stores to buy video games and leather handbags. But what they're missing out on is a sense of worth, and a sense of contributing to something bigger.

Okay, that's it. Now I've got to go upstairs and make some tomato soup for dinner.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Remnants of Timbuktu

Finished the necklace last night, after nearly two years! I guess it was about time! Unfortunately, all of the photos of the full piece were terribly and fuzzy, so I'll have to re-photograph it properly tomorrow morning when the light is better.

This piece is a 20" long necklace, created from square stitched components that are linked together with silver jump rings. Each piece is embellished with brick stitch triangles, grey AB druks, and colored pressed glass pyramids. The idea for the design came from one of my favorite old books on ancient jewelry. When I had originally sketched the design, I had noted "ancient English links" on the page, but when I looked again at the photo a few months ago before embarking on the finishing of the piece, I was astonished to see that the components pictured in the book were actually of Tuareg origin, noted to be found in Timbuktu! After that, I finished creating the components and the necklace with an entirely different vision in mind. I may have a few more embellishments to add, now that I know the true origin of the original pieces.

I did some research on Timbuktu. It's fascinating. The city of Timbuktu is located in the present day country of Mali, in Africa, and has been an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. In 1990, it was listed as an UNESCO world heritage site in danger because of desert sands. Until 1591, it was a major African city and had acquired vast wealth due to the flourishing trade in salt, slaves, gold, ivory and other treasures that were sought by the Europeans. While the city has a rich history of war and conquerers, today, most of its residents live in poverty. The name Timbuktu has become so ingrained in the collective unconscious that a recent poll of young Britons revealed that over 60% of those surveyed believed Timbuktu to be a "mythical place", and 34% did not believe that the city even existed!

This is another design that I am submitting to Interweave Press for their consideration, and I will also be submitting it to various bead shows to teach.

Now, on another, somewhat sadder note, I received and read the last installment in the Adrian Mole series today. Sue Townsend has finished her writings on the life of Adrian Mole with "Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction". Whether you are for the war in Iraq or against it, this book will move you. I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but suffice it to say that I damn near cried more than once while reading it, and this is going to become one of those books that I will re-read for the next year or two. Or three. Adrian and his family have all grown up or grown older. He attends his class reunion. His best friend Nigel has gone blind. And his sister Rosie is away studying nanobiology at University. While I finished the book in a little under five hours (my husband is going to really tease me about that!), this is one to take with me when I take a hot bath tonight and mull over its pages. I feel like the writer of the series, when your characters want to continue to live, yet you know that once you stop writing, the story is over. I can only hope that somewhere, in the imagination of Sue Townsend's many fans, that Adrian Mole and his family will continue to live.

With that in mind, I'd better wrap this up and get back upstairs to cooking dinner. Cooking has become one of the great loves of my life since I became a vegetarian. Tonight's dinner, made especially for Tom when he comes back from spending 14 hours out in 35 degrees: roasted eggplant and garlic soup; soft lentils with carmelized onions and tomatoes; kasha; and whole grain bread. I should open a restaurant!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Middle of the Week Blues...

Well, technically it's after the middle of the week, but it feels like the middle of the week for me. I feel as if I've been running a marathon all week. Worked for the Historical Society on Monday, spent Tuesday working at Ann's house, then had to make an emergency trip to the vet at 9:00 p.m. because Moose ate a mouthful of glass shards from the dish of maple-roasted nuts he pulled off the counter while we were having dinner at my in-laws'. Worked half the day for the Historical Society yesterday, then worked the other half at the Village, trying to finish their records management project. Came home, cooked dinner, and tried to get some beading done. Almost done with another necklace, I'm working on what may be the last component now. (Unless I decide that it needs one or two more to lengthen it.) Still no word on the X Marks the Spot Bracelet, but I did manage to submit five projects to BeadFest for their various shows around the country. As I develop more projects, I'll submit those, too.

Feeling completely unorganized this week. Have to sit down and make some lists: supplies that I am running out of, beads I need for projects, and I somehow have to get in touch with Designer's Findings!

Made some changes to the website the other night, but they were sort of accidental. I was trying to upload the newly finished Sounds of the Northway website on my account, but kept putting the files in the wrong folder, so I had to keep re-sending MY website! Finally got it all worked out around 11:30 p.m. Tom and I were so exhausted, we took Moose up to bed and didn't open our eyes until 7 the next morning. Yikes.

Okay, here's one of my favorite pieces and the history behind it. (She's also for sale at!)

Lady in the Lake, completed August of 2006

There is a story in Lake Placid about Mabel Douglas, the famed educator and founder of Douglas College of Rutgers University. For years, Mabel had a camp on Placid Lake. One day in the late fall of 1933, Mabel's daughter went to town to run errands, and Mabel took her St. Lawrence skiff (boat) out for a row on the lake. What happened next has never been clear, but several hours later, her overturned skiff was spotted and towed back to the boathouse on the lake. Her daughter identified it as belonging to Mabel, but Mabel was never found. Fast forward thirty years to a few divers who were looking for logs at the bottom of Placid Lake near Pulpit Rock, where the water in the lake is upwards of 150 feet deep. One of the divers, walking along the lake bottom, thinks he spots a clothing-shop mannequin, and reaches over to pick up its arm. It's apparent right away that it was not a mannequin. Due to the chemistry of the lake bottom and the relatively constant temperature of the water, the body had never decomposed, and the outer two inches or so had turned into a kind of soap. Unfortunately, as the body was brought to the surface, the movement of the water across the face caused the face to dissolve, so identification was difficult. However, it was determined that this was indeed Mabel Douglas, who had disappeared on the lake thirty years prior. At this time, an investigation was opened by the New York State Troopers. A witness came forward and said that he had seen Mabel rowing that afternoon from a distance, and that he had also seen her throw something into the water and then dive in after it. (She was found with a rope tied around her neck that was attached to an anchor.) However, the case was filed as "unsolved". It was never determined if foul play was involved, or if Mabel simply took her own life.

I read about the story several years ago, and seeing this ceramic face by Diane Briglieb amongst my bead collection, I knew she was The Lady in the Lake. I created the piece to honor the memory of Mabel Douglas who was a pioneer in women's education, and who earned countless awards and honors for her work in the field of education.

The Lady in the Lake was created with a combination of techniques. First, the ceramic face was glued to a piece of Lacy's Stiff Stuff, and allowed to dry. Then, I beaded a bezel around her using size 11 Delica beads. I then worked around the face with bead embroidery, embellishing here and there, using a variety of Japanese seed beads and pressed glass beads. After that was finished, I stitched on a backing of suede-like fabric in a coordinating color. After the main piece was finished, I created a beaded rope using spiral rope stitch and embellishing the rope with a huge variety of freshwater perals, seed beads, and pressed glass leaves and flowers. After I attached the rope, I went back and added short fringes to the top and bottom of the piece. All said and done, she took me more than 40 hours to complete. I entered her in the Lake Placid Center for the Arts Annual Juried Adirondack Art Show, but she was not selected. (Oh, well, can't win 'em all!)

The Lady in the Lake is for sale on my website. While I am very attached to her, I would like to see her go to a good home.